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Master Hong Yi and his calligraphy

Article Index
Master Hong Yi and his calligraphy
Hong Yi Calligraphy The Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra
Hong Yi Calligraphy(上)
Hong Yi Calligraphy(上)一
Hong Yi Calligraphy(上)二
Hong Yi Calligraphy(上)三
Hong Yi Calligraphy(中)一
Hong Yi Calligraphy(中)二
Hong Yi Calligraphy(中)三
Hong Yi Calligraphy(下)一
Hong Yi Calligraphy(下)二
Hong Yi Calligraphy(下)三
弘一大师书法欣赏
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Master Hong Yi and his calligraphy

Hong Yi (1880-1942) (Chinese: 弘一大師 Hóngyī Dashi), born Li Shutong (李叔同) was a Chinese Buddhist monk, artist and art teacher. He also went by Wen Tao, Guang Hou, and Shu Tong, but was most commonly known by his Buddhist name, Hong Yi. He was a master painter, musician, dramatist, calligrapher, seal cutter, poet, and Buddhist monk. He was born in Tianjin to a banking family originated in Hongdong County, Shanxi, that immigrated to Tianjin in Ming Dynasty though his mother was from Pinghu, Zhejiang province.

In 1898 Li moved to Shanghai and joined the "Shanghai Painting and Calligraphy Association", and the "Shanghai Scholarly Society" while he was attending the Nanyang public school. In 1905 Li went to Japan to study at Tokyo School of Fine Art in Ueno Park where he specialized in Western painting and music. In 1910 Li returned to China,and was appointed to Tianjin's Beiyang Advanced Industry School.

The next year he was appointed as a music teacher in a girl's school in Shanghai. He went to Hangzhou in 1912 and became a lecturer in the Zhejiang Secondary Normal College. He taught not only Western painting and music but also art history. By 1915 Jiang Qian hired him as a teacher at Nanjing Normal College (renamed in 1949 to Nanjing University), and taught painting and music. He also taught at Zhejiang Secondary Normal School (浙江两级师范学堂), the predecessor of famous Hangzhou High School (浙江省杭州高级中学).

During these later years, Li’s reputation grew, as he became the first Chinese educator to use nude models in his painting classes, not to mention as the first teacher of Western music in China. Some of the students, like Singapore artist Chen Wen Hsi (陈文希)whom he personally groomed went on to become accomplished masters of the arts in their later days. Li Shutong himself was also an accomplished composer and lyricist. Many of his compositions are still remembered and performed today.

In 1916, Li underwent a 21-day fast at a temple in Hangzhou, and experienced the benefit of a spiritual life. The following year, he took refuge in the Three Jewels of Buddhism. After spending another year there, Li began a new chapter in his life by choosing to be ordained as a monk, and thus began a holistic life dedicated to propagating Buddhism and its code of conduct. After becoming a monk he only practiced calligraphy, developing a simple and unadorned, yet unique style, which everyone who received a sample of treasured. He became known to all as Master Hong Yi. In 1942, Master Hong Yi died peacefully at the age of 63 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province.

In 1942, Master Hong Yi died peacefully at the age of 63 in Quanzhou, Fujian Province. It was the calligraphy that Hong Yi kept practicing as a monk until he passed away. All through his 62 years in life, the calligraphy kept him company for at least 50 years.

Hong Yi began learning how to write seal characters as a teenager. Back then, he would practice official script, regular script, running style and cursive writing. In a broad sense, Hong Yi’s calligraphy style could be categorized into two types: the pre-conversion style, which is flowery and muscular, and the post-conversion style, which is simple and unadorned.

The practice of calligraphy eventually changed from producing artistic work to spreading religious notions. As a monk, Hong Yi does not regard himself as an artist but as a person who writes from his heart with a brush..

Prominent author, educator and publisher in China, Ye Shengtao, once commented on Hong Yi’s calligraphy: “I cannot tell which group’s calligraphy Hong Yi has been imitating in recent years. And I don’t know too much about calligraphy. But I like his scripts very much. As to the reason, I could only tell based on my intuition, because his writings are full of charm. The whole piece of calligraphy is like a peaceful gentleman discussing scriptures with a smile, who is neither humble nor pushy…He gained his skills out of the writings. That’s why the more I look at his work, the more charming I feel they are.”




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Last Updated on Friday, 29 April 2011 01:30